The IPCC report in brief

Last week, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its fifth assessment of our global climate. In their latest report, the authors reconfirm that climate change is still happening and is caused by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels. Here's what the key findings mean for us.

Q: The last decade saw a lower temperature increase than the previous one. Is climate change taking a break?

A: "Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years." These are the findings of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued last Friday in Stockholm. ‘Likely’ as stated by the IPCC means a probability between 66% and 100%. "Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (IPCC, high confidence). Due to the long time scales of heat transfer from the ocean surface to depth, ocean warming will continue for centuries. The IPCC states further that most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped."

Q: What does this mean for the balance between emissions reduction and climate adaptation efforts?

A: Jim Hansen’s statement that we need to ‘avoid the unmanageable’ in order to ‘manage the unavoidable’ still holds true. That’s why Swiss Re pushes for emission reductions and is committed to carbon neutrality. We offer comprehensive risk transfer solutions along the value chain of a renewable energy project, covering technical, financial and external risks (such as the unpredictable nature of the weather). The IPCC made it very clear again that "limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."

But at the same time, climate adaptation is essential to strengthen the resilience of companies as well as local economies. Insurance puts a price tag on risk and incentivizes investments in prevention measures. Regarding  climate change impacts, the IPCC states that "changes in the global water cycle in response to the warming over the 21st century will not be uniform. The contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will increase, although there may be regional exceptions."

Q: That’s a complicated statement. How can decision-makers understand how climate change will impact their economies? And how can they identify cost-effective adaptation measures to make our society more resilient?

A: The Economics of Climate Adaptation (ECA) methodology provides the fact base to answer these questions in a systematic way. Based on climate impact scenarios derived by the latest IPCC findings and economic projections we quantify the potential climate-related loss to our economies and societies over the coming decades. The costs of unmitigated climate change could rise to around 20% of global GDP by the end of this century.

Q: How can we move forward together and put concrete actions into practice?

A: We need to involve all stakeholders and raise awareness about climate change risks. Swiss Re actively disseminates its knowledge to all stakeholders and advocates a long-term, market-based policy framework. We focus on how our societies can become more resilient in the face of inevitable climate change, including the use of a pre-emptive risk management approach. Swiss Re is engaged in constructive dialogues through a variety of platforms, such as the Climate Week NYC, the Clinton Global Initiative, and discussions taking place at our Center for Global Dialogue. Through Swiss Re's Global Partnerships we provide lasting social and environmental impact through public private partnerships that build on genuine needs and affordability of the involved partners.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision-makers because of its scientific and intergovernmental nature. Participation in the IPCC is open to all member countries of the WMO and United Nations. It currently has 195 members. IPCC assessments are written by hundreds of leading scientists who volunteer their time and expertise as Coordinating Lead Authors and Lead Authors of the reports. They enlist hundreds of other experts as Contributing Authors to provide complementary expertise in specific areas. Swiss Re experts served as review authors in the present and past IPCC reports. See

Published October 4, 2013

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